Thursday, August 17, 2006

Payment plan

The most recent national minimum wage increase came almost a decade ago, when the hourly wage floor jumped from $4.25 to $5.15. I recall many gloom-and-doom warnings that the hike would result in massive job cuts and layoffs, but somehow, those dire prophecies never quite panned out in reality, partly because many jobs that pay minimum wage tend to be in service industries where the demand for workers is relatively steady.

The federal government hasn't touched the minimum wage since 1997, and even though states are free to require higher pay, Alabama is one of the six states that has no minimum wage law whatsoever. (Oddly enough, Kansas' statutory rate is lower than the national one.) With the cost of a gallon of gas now firmly above 50 percent of an hour's pay at minimum wage and other prices rising more quickly than most wages, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley said Wednesday that she hopes to nip that trend in the bud. Baxley wants the state to enact a law to raise the minimum wage by at least $1, and if Congress continues its inaction, I'm OK with the Legislature taking the matter into its own hands next year.

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